Plans to turn barns into homes for rent

PLANS to develop a dachshund breeding business on a farm in Rockwell Green which caused controversy last year have been abandoned.

Simon and Zoe Raw had proposed converting a barn to a dog kennels at Henley Farm, Payton, creating a dog agility course alongside it, and building a clinic, treatment room, training room and petting area.

The plans also included a second barn being converted to an indoor horse menage and the creation of three glamping pitches nearby.

But following criticism from Wellington Town Council and objects by local residents the couple have now dropped the scheme and sold their nationally-known Rawsome Dachshunds dog breeding business as a going concern.

Instead, the couple now want to focus on diversifying the farm business by converting the barns to five new homes, growing a hemp crop, a grass crop for hay, rearing sheep for meat and introducing alpacas for wool.

They bought the 61-acre farm in late 2020 and Mrs Raw resigned from her job with The Donkey Sanctuary charity, near Sidmouth, to work full-time developing the agricultural business.

Mr and Mrs Raw initially wanted to use the farmland for the agricultural business and convert the barns for the dog breeding enterprise.

However, they recognised feedback from ‘local stakeholders’ made it clear that developing the barns for the dogs was not supported by the community.

In a statement to support a new planning application to the district council the couple said: “Therefore, we have carefully reconsidered our plans, and have developed an alternative proposal which accounts for our need to diversify the farm’s income to support for our family but also which will be in better keeping with consideration of the needs of the local community and for long-term protection of the rural environment.

“Our intention is to live at Henley Farm for the long-term and continue to farm the land. We have a herd of 160 sheep which will be sold for meat and are currently preparing to introduce an alpaca herd.

“In 2022 and beyond, we will be investing in regenerative agriculture to revitalize the soil and local environment after years of extractive farming practices. We will focus on rotational grazing with sheep, alongside growing a hemp and grass crop, to improve soil structure and biodiversity.

“Sheep have a minimal carbon footprint, helping us to contribute towards carbon neutrality, and their grazing ecology contributes to biodiversity by increasing the species richness of plants by decreasing the abundance of dominant species and augmenting the richness of rare species.

“We will also focus on organic fertilisation for the land to improve its mineral and nutritional content.”

The couple said it meant there was no use for the two barns which were previously used to house cattle and poultry.

The plan now was to re-purpose the barns as five homes for rent under a Government-introduced planning policy designed to improve rural housing stock.

Mr and Mrs Raw said the Wellington area suffered from ‘a lack of suitable housing’ with the average house price in the town now more than ten times the average annual wage.

“With a shortage of available affordable housing and mortgages becoming hard to obtain, housing is a key issue in the town,” they said.

Thirteen letters of objection have so far been sent to the district council, many of which claimed the barns did not qualify for the Government planning scheme because they would need nearly completely rebuilding instead of simply being converted to housing.

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